Organizations are increasingly concerned with the resilience and wellbeing of employees, in part because of a growing awareness of the costs of absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turnover associated with stress and mental health problems. Around the world, since 2009 the number of sick days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24% and the number lost to serious mental illness has doubled. The leading cause of work absence in the U.S. and the UK is poor mental health – accounting for more than half of sick days every year.11
In one study investigating the factors that supports individuals’ resilience, 90% of research participants said they find resilience from within themselves but over 50% of people also cited their relationships as a source of resilience.12 Only 20% said that their work makes them resilient and interestingly only 12% said their organizations help. These last two findings indicate untapped potential for building sustainable resilience within an organization – and it can start with you and the employees under your supervision. The researchers note that organizations can do more to help employees develop resilience and that it should be integral to leadership development.
Mindfulness within organizations can support resilience because it:
- equips individuals with self-awareness that helps them to understand resilience and actively participate in its development
- enables people to recognize the signs of stress and respond more effectively
- develops discernment between activities that nurture or deplete internal resources
- recognizes the power of thoughts and finds ways of skillfully working with them
- supports a culture where relationships are valued.
A number of randomized controlled trials of workplace mindfulness-based training courses have found positive effects on burnout, wellbeing and stress.13 Studies have shown that those practicing mindfulness report lower levels of stress during multitasking tests and are able to concentrate longer without their attention being diverted.14 Other research suggests that employees of leaders who practice mindfulness have less emotional exhaustion, better work life balance and better job performance ratings.15
A 2014 meta-analysis of 209 clinical research studies with a total of 12,145 participants concluded that mindfulness training showed “large and clinically significant effects in treating anxiety and depression.16 Mindfulness-training programs have also consistently been found to reduce self-reported measures of perceived stress, anger, rumination, and physiological symptoms, while improving positive outlook, empathy, sense of cohesion, self-compassion and overall quality of life.17 Mindfulness training is associated with reduced reactivity to emotional stimuli,18 as well as improvements in attention and cognitive capacities.19 These may be some of the mechanisms by which health and wellbeing gains can be made – by relating to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and events in life more skillfully, practitioners may be less drawn into unhelpful habitual reactions and more able to make good choices about how to relate to their circumstances.
About the Author: This excerpt was edited and reprinted with the permission of our friends at The Mindfulness Initiative. To learn more about their work, please visit www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.
11 Davies SC. Annual Report of the Chief Medical O cer 2013, Public Mental Health Priorities: Investing in the Evidence. London: Department of Health; 2014.
12 Bond, S & Shapiro, G. (2014) Tough at the Top? New Rules for Resilience for Women’s Leadership Success
13 Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and metaanalysis. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine. 2009;15:593–600. Jain S, Shapiro SL, Swanick S, Roesch SC, Mills PJ, Bell I, Schwartz GE. A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: Effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2007;33:11–21. Pidgeon AM, Ford L, Klaassen F. Evaluating the effectiveness of enhancing resilience in human service professionals using a retreat-based mindfulness with Metta Training Program: A randomised control trial. Psychology, Health and Medicine. 2014;19:355–64. Manotas M, Segura C, Eraso M, Oggins J, McGovern K. Association of brief mindfulness training with reductions in perceived stress and distress in Colombian health care professionals. International Journal of Stress Management. 2014;21:207–225.
14 Jha AP, Stanley EA, Kiyonaga A, Wong L, Gelfand L. Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory and affective experience. Emotion. 2010;10(1):54–64. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Diamond BJ, David Z, Goolkasian P. Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition. 2010; 19(2):597-605. Mrazek MD, Franklin MS, Phillips DT, Baird B, Schoole JW. Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science. 2013;24(5):776-781.
15 Reb J, Narayanan J, Ho ZW. Mindfulness at work: Antecedents and consequences of employee awareness and absentmindedness. Mindfulness. 2013;6(1):111-122. Reb J, Narayanan J, Chaturvedi S. Leading mindfully: two studies on the influence of supervisor trait mindfulness on employee wellbeing and performance. Mindfulness. 2012;5(1):36-45.
16 Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, Masse M, Therien P, Bouchard V, et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review. 2013;33:763–771.
17 Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review. 2011;31(6):1041–1056. Trait mindfulness (how “mindful” a person generally is in their approach to life) is positively associated with wellbeing indicators such as life satisfaction, conscientiousness, vitality, self-esteem, empathy, sense of autonomy, competence, and optimism, while it is negatively correlated with depression, neuroticism, absentmindedness, rumination, cognitive reactivity, social anxiety, emotion regulation difficulties, and general psychological symptoms.
18 Hölzel B, Lazar SW, Gard T, Schuman-Olivier Z, Vago DR, Ott U. How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 2011;6:6537- 559. Farb N, Anderson A, Segal Z. The Mindful Brain and Emotion Regulation in Mood Disorders. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2012;57(2):70–77.